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NEW DELHI: The Supreme Court on Wednesday ordered States and Union Territories (UTs) to take a decision by January 31 on the opening of Anganwadi centres across the country, except in the case of containment zones in the view of COVID-19.

A Bench headed by Justice Ashok Bhushan also directed the States and UTs to ensure that nutritional standards as provided under the food safety law reach pregnant women, lactating mothers and children suffering from malnutrition.

The apex court also ordered the Ministry of Women and Child Development to take a decision in this regard by January 31.

The UTs and States must make arrangements of opening Anganwadis only after consulting their respective State Disaster Management Authorities, said the apex court, adding that complete redressal management should be put in place.

The apex court order came on a plea filed by Maharashtra-based Dipika Jagatram Sahani seeking direction relating to forthwith reopening of all Anganwadi centres in the country which were closed amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

The plea also sought a direction to the Centre, states and UTs to provide hot cooked meals, take-home rations in consonance with the provisions of the National Food Security Act, 2013 as well as the Supplementary Nutrition (under the Integrated Child Development Services Scheme) Rules, 2020.

The plea claimed that functioning of all Anganwadi centres in the country came to a “sudden halt” and poor pregnant and lactating women and children were “left in the lurch”.